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Wales TUC releases a Just Transition toolkit

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, March 17, 2021

Greener workplaces for a Just Transition is a toolkit published in March by the Wales Trades Union Congress, aiming to provide information, tools and ideas for union representatives working towards climate solutions. Intended as a training resource, the 202-page manual includes case studies, bargaining checklists, action plans, and sample documents which workplace reps can adapt to use for their own workplaces. Workplace issues addressed include homeworking, procurement and ethical supply chains, waste and conservation measures, financial disclosure and pension management, among others. The sample documents include a workplace survey, and a joint environment and climate change agreement, which includes language for workplace Joint Environment Committees and Green Workplace Representatives. The toolkit is quite specific to Wales, although the topics are relevant to any jurisdiction. It follows the 2020 policy publication by the Wales TUC , A Green Recovery and a Just Transition.

From the Valleys to the Beaches, New Coal Mines Bring Fear not Hope

By Mat Hope - DeSmog UK, November 29, 2017

In 2015, the UK government promised to phase out coal power. In April this year, the country had its first coal power-free day since the industrial revolution. Last month, climate minister Claire Perry stood with 20 of her international counterparts and promised to “power past coal”.

The British coal industry is dead, isn’t it?

In the UK, there is the impression that the streams of miners leaving the pits like grubby-faced lords of the underworld are a thing of the past. That the pickets, police, projectiles and — ultimately — poverty, are the stuff of history textbooks. And that the trucks, noise, dust, and heaps of blackened spoil exist only in isolated pockets of the isle… and not for much longer.

Yet, in two communites hundreds of miles apart, residents are confronted with a very different picture.

In Wales’ lush green valleys, there is electrician Eddy Blanche, telling me how he’s given his all in a fight to save his granddaughter’s future. There is hometown oldboy Roy Thomas, carefully photographing all the rubble, mudslides, and other miscallaneous fallout from the huge open hole next to his home. And there is Isobel Tarr and her campaigner colleagues, offering a helping hand, trying to think of new ways to make this industry stop. Now.

Then, a six-hour drive to the North East on a beautiful stretch of Northumbrian coast, there is craft worker Lynne Tate, walking her dogs on the beach every day, before pouring over the details of a traffic survey back home. There is Rob Noyes, recently graduated and working full-time now as an environmental coordinator, still raging from his student days at the hypocrisy of companies stuck in the past. And Andrew Stark, up for Uni, wondering why the concerns of his generation continue to be ignored.

The two groups have never met, but they have one thing binding them: opencast coal mining. As far as they are concerned, coal is alive and kicking — hard.

Building Workers’ Power in the United Kingdom

By New Syndicalist - Industrial Worker, July/August 2015

A few months ago New Syndicalist (a group of Wobblies from the United Kingdom writing about worker-led, anti-capitalist theory and strategy) was approached by the Workers’ Power column with a request to write a reflective piece on the recent growth of the IWW in the United Kingdom. People who have been following our online media presence will know that the U.K. IWW hit an important milestone this year—exceeding 1,000 members. This was celebrated recently at our annual conference in Bradford, England. An older member recalled attending the 2005 conference in the same city that had just seven members in attendance. In 2015 most branch delegations were larger.

We have seen fantastic growth over the past decade, particularly in the case of some of our larger branches that now have between 100 to 300 members. What is it like to have branches of this size and how did they get built? These were the key questions posed to us. These are obviously very big questions and have by no means simple answers, particularly in terms of attempting to represent the dedicated and patient work of IWW organizers across the United Kingdom over the past 10 years. Nonetheless, we did put our heads together at New Syndicalist and decided to focus on what we thought were the five most important factors in helping to grow our branches in the North (where we are based), some of which have doubled in size over the last year.

The list is by no means exhaustive, and some more experienced Wobs may feel we may be trying to teach them to “suck eggs” here as they will recognize many fundamental concepts within our existing organizer training program. We nonetheless present them in the hope of solidarity, shared dialogue and spirited debate.

Postcards to Wales

By Striking Heart - Striking Heart, February 3, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The ways we know each other and ourselves are transformed through collective struggles. Sometimes we manage to exceed and push beyond what is anticipated. The bonds formed between Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners and mining communities in South Wales are one such example. Matthew Warchus’s film Pride got us thinking about what notion of ‘pride’ might be required to combat climate change through a struggle around the conditions of contemporary work. We see that labour struggles of the 20th century were accompanied by a discourse of pride in being a worker – for some, in being a miner. We ask, how might our collective nostalgia for labour movements remembered in terms of the pride to be labour be unsettled by the catastrophic threat posed by our enduring reliance on coal mining?

Juxtaposing reflections on our families’ histories in the Taff Bargoed and Cynon valleys with the contemporary political and economic situation in Australia, we ask whether there is another path for communities that rely on wages/welfare today. What possibilities are arising for our generation, a generation that must challenge catastrophic environmental destruction? Is it possible that we might not need to sacrifice our well-being, our environment and the futures of others to satisfy our immediate material needs and desires?

We propose that we can be proud of mining communities’ battles to defend their livelihoods by clarifying these as struggles for dignity, sustainability and for community control over community interests. These characteristics will be essential in ongoing efforts to put an end to mining. To this we would add that a major battleground for our time is the struggle to collectively work less!

Mining Memories

As two Welsh-Australian women who were children in the 1980s and for whom Sydney is mostly home, there isn’t much we can contribute to a personalised analysis of the battles against pit closures. There are, however, some links to be drawn between the experiences of our ancestors and the conditions we face in contemporary Australia.

We know that in Wales the pits sustained life by providing relatively well-paid jobs, and sites around which strong communities were built and where our families flourished. But they also took life, sometimes quickly and brutally, sometimes by slowly chipping away. Emphysema and other lung conditions affected our grandparents’ and parents’ generation. Many people would not live beyond their fifties due to over-work and poor health and safety conditions. Injuries were commonplace in the hazardous underground mines and for children playing in the towns around the coalfields. Claire’s Dad remembers,

‘There wasn’t much in the way of health and safety! If we were going up the mountain, we used to hitch a ride on the coal trams. There was a rope that winched them up and we’d jump on that. I don’t know how many of us got hurt doing it. We also used to play on the bridge over the train tracks. The game was to be on top of the bridge as the coal train passed, shooting smoke up as it went. We came back covered in soot, black from head to foot.’

Despite some of the horrors and misery of the daily grind, we feel a longing for the courage of those communities that fought against the pit closures. We understand that a way of life was at stake during the struggles in the 1980s. Much of what has been lost in the last few decades relates to the breaking down of that culture, as well as the very real consequences of inter-generational under-employment and poverty. This acknowledged, one of the starkest examples of the contradictions inherent in the fight to keep the pits open is found in many people’s hopes that their children would not have to work in them. ‘No one wanted their children to go down the mines but there weren’t many other options in the Valleys. It was down the pits or to the army,’ says Claire’s Dad. The less common narrative of the struggle to against pit closures is the struggle for better lives, lives extricable from work.

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

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The Fine Print II:

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